President-elect Joe Biden signalled on Sunday he plans to move quickly to build out his government, focusing first on the coronavirus pandemic that will likely dominate the early days of his administration.
Biden named a former surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler, as co-chairs of a COVID-19 working group set to get started, with other members expected to be announced Monday.
Transition team officials said that also this week Biden will launch his agency review teams, the group of transition staffers that have access to key agencies in the current administration to ease the transfer of power.
The teams will collect and review information such as budgetary and staffing decisions, pending regulations and other work in progress from the current staff at the departments to help Biden’s team prepare to transition.
White House officials would not comment on whether they would cooperate with Biden's team on the review.
“People want the country to move forward," said Kate Bedingfield, Biden deputy campaign manager, in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, adding they want to see Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris "have the opportunity to do the work, to get the virus under control and to get our economy back together."
It's unclear for now whether President Donald Trump and his administration will cooperate. He has yet to acknowledge Biden's victory and has pledged to mount legal challenges in several closely contested states that decided the race.
Biden adviser Jen Psaki pressed for the Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration to quickly recognise Biden as the president-elect, which would free up money for the transition and clear the way for Biden's team to begin putting in place the transition process at agencies.
“America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signalling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” Psaki said in a Twitter posting.
A GSA official said Sunday that step had not been taken yet.
A bipartisan group of administration officials from the Barack Obama, George W Bush, and Bill Clinton administrations on Sunday called on the Trump administration to move forward “to immediately begin the post-election transition process."
“This was a hard-fought campaign, but history is replete with examples of presidents who emerged from such campaigns to graciously assist their successors," members of the Center for Presidential Transition advisory board said in a statement.
The statement was signed by Bush White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt as well as Bill Clinton-era chief of staff Thomas “Mack" McLarty and Obama Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
Biden aides said the president-elect and transition team had been in touch with Republican lawmakers.
Biden administration has challenging weeks ahead
The president-elect faces key staffing decisions in the days ahead. The always-frenzied 10-week transition period before Inauguration Day on January 20 has already been shortened by the extra time it took to determine the winner of Tuesday's election.
Joe Biden said Saturday in a victory speech that he would announce a task force of scientists and experts Monday to develop a “blueprint” to begin beating back the virus by the time he assumes the presidency. He said his plan would be “built on bedrock science” and “constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern.”
Murthy, who had advised Biden during the campaign, was named to a four-year term as surgeon general in 2014 by President Barack Obama but was asked to resign by Trump months into the Republican's term.
Kessler was appointed as FDA commissioner by President George HW Bush and served in the position through President Bill Clinton's first term in the White House.
Biden senior adviser Ted Kaufman said the transition team will focus on the "nuts and bolts” of building the new administration in coming days.
Could Biden be willing to appoint Republicans to high-profile positions?
Biden may not make top cabinet choices for weeks but he built his presidential run around bipartisanship and he has spent the days since Tuesday's election pledging to be a president for all Americans. That suggests he could be willing to appoint some Republicans to high-profile administration positions.
Many former Republican officeholders broke with Trump to endorse Biden’s campaign. Biden's selection of some of them to join the new government could appease Senate Republicans, who may have to confirm many of Biden's choices for top jobs. The GOP could retain control of the chamber after two special elections in Georgia on January 5.
Still, too much across-the-aisle cooperation could draw the ire of progressives. Some already worry that uncooperative Senate Republicans could force Biden to scale back his ambitious campaign promises to expand access to health care and lead a post-pandemic economic recovery that relies on federal investment in green technology and jobs to help combat climate change.
“I think there will be a huge misuse of the word ‘unity’ to imply that we need to water down the ideas that Joe Biden just campaigned on,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He said the country was more united around bold solutions to big problems than small-scale efforts.
Biden's efforts at bipartisan reconciliation could still be derailed by Trump's refusing to concede the race.
Symone Sanders, a Biden campaign senior adviser, said on CNN's State of the Union that while several Republican lawmakers have been in contact with the president-elect in recent days, the campaign has yet to hear from White House officials.
Euronews bought you live coverage from election night and beyond. Here's how things played out:
Biden starts day as president-elect by attending church
After attending church in Wilmington, the president-elect visited the graves of family members in the church cemetery.
US First Lady Melania Trump echoes Trump's call to count every 'legal vote'
Former President George W Bush congratulates President-elect Joe Biden, says election outcome 'is clear'
Former President Bush said he spoke to both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the phone and offered his warm congratulations.
"Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country," Bush said.
He said that President Trump had the right to request recounts and pursue legal challenges but that the "American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld and its outcome is clear."
Trump's allies stand by him while some Republicans say results unlikely to change
Republican chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted: "The media doesn’t decide who wins elections, voters do. In multiple states the margins are razor thin with counting ongoing, several of which are headed for recounts."
"The media can project an election winner, but they don't get to decide if claims of broken election laws & irregularities are true," tweeted Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
Most Republicans have stayed silent on the outcome of the race, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Trump has however broken with tradition by refusing to concede the election. There were recounts in several states following Trump's win in 2016 but that did not stop Hillary Clinton from conceding the election or Trump declaring victory.
Some Republicans have congratulated President-elect Joe Biden, with Senator Mitt Romney calling on the party to get behind the new president.
GOP Senator Roy Blunt told ABC that he thought it was too early to declare Biden the President-elect but said he thought a different outcome was "unlikely."
Protesters hold signs as Trump arrives at Virginia golf club on Sunday
'Now more than ever we need to come together as Americans': Maryland Governor Larry Hogan says
"Everyone should want our president to succeed because we need our country to succeed. We have great challenges ahead of us as a country. Now more than ever, we need to come together as Americans," Governor Hogan tweeted.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, also a Republican, congratulated the President-elect, stating that if there are court battles, they should move quickly.
"If the courts do get involved, they must move quickly to make fact-based, lawful decisions, because the people of this nation - who came out and voted in record numbers - deserve a government that can work collaboratively to fight COVID-19, rebuild our economy and give people hope that there will be a positive path forward," Baker said.
Trump, quoting Newt Gingrich, repeats claim election was stolen
Donald Trump has refused to concede the US presidential election, repeating his claim that the election was "stolen" while retweeting a quote from former US Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney said that Trump had "a relatively relaxed relationship with the truth".
Romney said he would "prefer to see the world watching a more graceful departure but that's just not in the nature of the man."
Most Republicans have remained silent on the election outcome.
Biden team launches transition website with four main priorities
President-elect Joe Biden has launched a transition website with four main priorities that will be addressed "on Day one":
- Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic including new investments in testing
- Getting people back to work and extending COVID crisis unemployment insurance as part of an economic recovery
- Advancing a plan to advance racial equity
- Investing in infrastructure and jobs that tackle the climate crisis
Others on the transition team include Jeff Zients, the former director of the White House National Economic Council, and Michelle Lujan Grisham, the New Mexico governor.
US election is 'moment of significance' for EU partnership, says von der Leyen
In a video statement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the US and EU were "friends and allies" and said the election was a "moment of significance".
She called the US-EU partnership "unprecedented" and rooted in "common history and shared values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, the respect for human rights, social justice, and an open economy."
Von der Leyen said the EU was ready to "intensify cooperation with a new administration" to address global challenges.
The EU had a complicated relationship with Donald Trump, who supported the Brexit referendum and criticised NATO, calling it "obsolete".
Trump also withdrew from the Paris agreement and said he would leave the World Health Organisation, actions that Biden has said he would reverse.